Parsha Beha’alotcha / בהעלתך: Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1 – 12:16
The word Beha’alotecha is translated a few different ways: “When You Go Up, When You Step Up (Rashi) or When You Raise Up [The Light].”
The Lord spoke to Moses and instructed him to have Aaron set up the seven lamps to shine upon the face of the seven branched menorah. (Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1-2).
Mystically, the seven branches of the Menorah are connected to the seven pillars of Wisdom, meaning Moses and Aaron always had to ensure the Light was shining upon Wisdom.
Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars…Proverbs 9:1
The theme of Light continues, when GD’s presence in the Israelite camp is identified as a hovering Cloud by day (a filtered, sheltering light) and a Fire (a hot, intense light) by night.
The Cloud is referred to as the “Cloud of Glory.” When the Cloud moved (along with the Fire), the tribe packed up the Mishkan (tabernacle) and followed the Divine Light. Have Mishkan, will travel.
On the day that the Mishkan was built the cloud covered it, even the tent of the testimony; and at evening there was upon the Mishkan the appearance of fire, until morning.
So it was always: the cloud covered it and there was an appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud moved from over the Tent, the children of Israel journeyed. And in the place where the cloud abode, the children of Israel encamped.
Whether it was two days, or a month, or a year that the cloud tarried upon the Mishkan, the children of Israel remained encamped and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed.Beha’alotecha
Whew! The ongoing upheaval interspersed with sheltering in place, must have filled them with a sense of endless waiting, uncertainty and anxiety.
In the year 2020, I think most of us can relate.
During their 40 years of juggling upheaval and sheltering in place, the ancient Israelites must have wondered — Is there really a destination or is it only about the journey? If the destination is indeed the Light at the end of the tunnel, when in the world will we get there? How long will we be stuck in the austere desert wilderness, until we reach the Promised Land?
Right now we are experiencing a Cloud of Uncertainty, while we long for a Cloud of Glory. Right now, we are wondering if and when we’ll ever be able to move forward again.
In this pain-filled space of a pandemic virus and pandemic racism, we don’t know if we’ll ever reach the “Promised Land” where equality reigns supreme. On this journey, our hearts ache to supplant the trauma and suffering of systemic bigotry, with systemic human dignity.
The transitions between movement (action) and sheltering in place must have felt like a painful state of limbo for the Israelites, imbued with a soul-deep yearning for balance, stability and safety — just as our current state of being feels to so many of us today.
Even though it was necessary for the Israelites to forge a new reality, it was not a task they all wanted to take on, work towards or accept.
We too, must embrace the necessity of forging a new reality, while dealing with mindsets that are in denial and hostile to the mere thought. De-nial is not just a river in Egypt.
Rabbinical exegesis tells us that the Clouds of Glory surrounding the Israelite camp fulfilled three primary purposes:
1) To protect the people from the searing sun.
2) To lead the way through the desert.
3) To assure a safe journey by flattening mountains and raising up valleys, and protecting them from poisonous serpents and scorpions in their path. (Metaphors for helping them overcome the obstacles they encountered from within and without)
We are facing mountains of obstacles right now and it’s hard as hell to move mountains.
We are facing deep valleys right now and it’s hard as hell to level the playing field.
We are struggling to climb out of the pit of poisonous enculturation right now and it’s hard as hell to find the antidote when the poison keeps spewing forth.
In this Parsha, Divinity/GD appeared as two very different and diametrical elements: Clouds and Fire.
Even at a standstill, waiting for the cloud to [up]lift, we must tap into our inner spiritual fire to help heal the toxic inequities poisoning our environment. Like Moses and Aaron, we must keep the lamplights shining on the face of Wisdom at all times.
©️ 2020 – All Rights Reserved — Chochmat Halev (Wisdom of the Heart) is my Ner Tamid (Eternal Light)